Just like for all age groups, owning a pet helps to improve mood and fights against depression. Pets create the feeling of joy and fun that seniors often have a hard time finding from activities that they used to enjoy at a younger age.
These psychological benefits lead to physical benefits too! Both blood pressure and pulse rates lower when spending time with your pets. The calming effect of these animals helps to improve overall circulatory health –a leading cause of medical issues with the elderly that can be improved with just petting their furry friend!
The physical benefits of pets continue with the increase in exercise seniors experience as owners. Walking dogs is one of the best exercises (for both owners and dogs) since it can be vigorous, yet low impact. Walking can be tailored to match a senior’s fitness level by going as fast or slow as they please, or by extending or shortening the walks. As we know, more exercise leads to better overall health.
Pets also improve and increase social interactions for the elderly. Walks bring both owners and pets out into the community to meet new people and keep up with old friendships. They give young family members an incentive to come visit more often and also make visits more fun for both the elderly and youngsters as they bond over a shared interest in the animals.
These social interactions help to fight loneliness. Retirees and elderly people often miss the level of person to person interactions they had during their working years or when they were raising children. Pets help them to have opportunities to get some of these interactions back. When they aren’t around other people, pets still act as friends who their owners can spend time and interact with. Seniors often have a great deal of experience in nurturing others, and pets can provide an outlet for this need even when children are grown and out of the house. Taking care of another living thing again often leads to a senior caring for themselves better too!
Older pet owners do have some things to consider:
As they get older and experience some physical limitations, it’s important to imagine the best choice of pet. Large dogs may be hard to control and could potentially cause an injury if it pulls too hard on the leash or is too rough with the owner.
Young puppies and kittens can be cute, but their higher energy levels may not appeal to a senior. The same goes for higher energy breeds of dogs that may demand more exercise than a senior is wanting or able to give.
A pet’s maintenance level can vary breed to breed. A senior that is no longer driving or having trouble driving likely wouldn’t want a breed that needs to go to the groomer or vet every week. A lower maintenance animal could fit their lifestyle better and provide less hassle for the owner.